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The Music Man 

Squeezed between a barred-up Two Street Music and the typically dodgy Eureka Rescue Mission, stepping into the bustling and well-lit space of the Livella Studios grand opening party Friday night was a great relief. Dark and drizzling outside, the antechamber provided a burst of warmth and light, a collection of large, glossy paintings hanging from the walls as artist Christina Swingdler buzzed proudly around greeting newcomers at the door. Beyond this, a room with a white-clothed table sagged under the weight of free food and drink.

Complete with bread, cheese and gourmet nacho fixings, there's something to be said for providing good food. Entering a place on an empty stomach can be a harrowing experience, narrowing your perception of the event at hand to simply "with or without food" by which we then determine "good or bad." Once sated, however, an individual is at ease to look around and analyze his or her environment with more sophisticated criteria, such as the cleanliness of the bathroom or the ability of the establishment to provide affordable, high-quality sound production and studio space for rent by the hour, which Livella certainly does.

Sitting across from founder Jared Nivella in a wood-paneled sound booth built for vocalists, he excitedly describes some of the purposes the studio will serve. Music production, of course, but also commercial audio production, backline rental, a rotating gallery space up front and music lessons, especially for kids. As we talk, Nivella's older brother Michael listens in, smiling amiably from the door frame, and moments later Jared's 10-year-old nephew darts in to ask where the drumsticks are hidden; a secret which is not divulged. "The whole place is a family affair," he smiles.

Having lived in Humboldt County for 10 years, this is not Nivella's first experience running a studio. Beginning in Kneeland, Jared co-founded Smokey Ridge Productions with friend and fellow musician Denis Karlson in 1998. After a move to Eureka some years later left him with considerably less space, he founded E-Box studio in his bedroom, where he was able to produce his first album under the moniker Astroid Advocate. Another move and small apartment later, Nivella was offered the dingy space formerly known as the Two Street Music Studio. "It was really sterile, but we decided to go for it. The main thing that had to be fixed was the lighting, especially to set the mood and warm the space. We wanted this to be a place where people felt comfortable enough to create," Nivella says, pointing out the recessed track-lights illuminating the honey-colored, wood wall panels and forest green tapestries hung presumably to dampen the sound.

"Having this space is a real gift because it brings our services into the public, whereas before, the circumstances of our location made it all private," Nivella says, his brother solemnly nodding along. "It's so important to create and support each other," Nivella emphasizes, "especially as local musicians. We want to use this place to get to the next level together. Music's not a competition, it's a cause, and we have to take any opportunity we have to give. This place was like a gift to us, and now we're looking to give back by helping people through music." Jared pauses to exchange a satisfied look with Michael. "Cheesy, I know, but true."

Prospective customers and curious individuals are encouraged to drop by anytime Monday through Friday from 2 to 6 p.m. Appointments for rental can be made in person or by phone at 268-8781.

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Julianna Boggs

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